On being a Creative Kaiju: A chat with Yang Yeo of Hakuhodo

Jul. 18, 2018
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Hakuhodo’s Yang Yeo was recently named in Adweek’s Global Creative 100 along with his fellow APAC Co-CCO and “Creative Kaiju” Kentato Kimura. We caught up with Yang at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to hear his views on being a Creative Kaiju at Hakuhodo Inc.

What does “Creative Kaiju” mean?

YANG YEO: I use “Creative Kaiju” (=creative beast) as my official title, whilst “APAC Co-CCO” is more of a formality I use with certain clients. Hakuhodo has some 120 years of heritage and tradition. Mostly our culture is very good, but some traditions are out of date and need to be refreshed, especially for global business. We’re very strong in Japan, but need to be more progressive outside of Japan. That’s our role as Creative Kaijus. We work closely with different business units across the region, helping them to break away from bad old habits and remove barriers so as to find new ways to bring excitement and opportunities in the marketplace. So why “Kaiju?” Because you need to be fearless, tenacious, strong, driven, and have good instincts, keen awareness, and inspiring points of view to perform in this role. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Does the Kaiju concept communicate well?

YANG YEO: We selected this word because it is Japanese. Many people outside of Japan actually do know what “Kaiju” means because of all the Hollywood movies and animation. So it is a concept that is not too foreign. Although I’m not Japanese, I am working for Hakuhodo in Japan, so choosing a Japanese title has benefits.

What is your impression of Hakuhodo internationally?

YANG YEO: Each office outside of Japan needs to be independent and capable. They cannot depend on HQ in Japan to support them financially and feed them business. Each office needs to find out what their “super power” is. Clients in their respective marketplaces will then be attracted to working with them. Only when we can achieve that can Hakuhodo truly be an international company that happens to be born in Japan. Look at COMME des GARÇONS. The fashion is very much Japanese and cutting edge, yet it appeals to a global audience. I hope to work toward the day when global clients will see Hakuhodo as a talented and innovative international company that happens to have its HQ in Japan, rather than a Japanese advertising agency that has outposts outside of Japan.

What was it like to be Hakuhodo’s first Cannes Lions jury president?

YANG YEO: I’ve been a jury president in many other awards shows so it was not new for me. Of course, judging in Cannes is great too, and I was told by the organizers that I did very well. What was new was that it was the first time someone from Hakuhodo was appointed as a jury president at Cannes. I’m very happy about that, because one of my criteria is to help to bring fame to Hakuhodo internationally. So now the global creative community knows that Hakuhodo produces really good talent as well as great creative work.

As jury president, I moderated and listened to everyone’s opinions and encouraged good discussion. I made new friends, learned new approaches, and gathered different but interesting points of view. The judges on my Industry Craft panel came from different corners of the globe, were very diverse in their professional backgrounds, and equally split, with five men and five women. In the mix we had a photographer from Kenya, a typographer and design director from Sweden, and others with digital and behavioural design backgrounds, as well more conventional creative leaders from ad agencies. We considered the entries from all aspects, from old-school techniques to innovative technologies and digital media, judging the work through the craft lens to make the final decisions.

Did the judges ask about Hakuhodo and Creative Kaiju?

YANG YEO: Yes, of course. Nobody cares if your name card says ECD or CCO, because Cannes is full of them during the Festival. But when you say you’re a Creative Kaiju, people are curious and want to learn more. This gave me the opportunity to educate them about Hakuhodo and our capabilities. I also presented Hakuhodo as a progressive, unique, and forward-thinking company. The Creative Kaiju concept is very original and only Hakuhodo has it.

You also spoke at Cannes. How was your experience as a speaker at the Hakuhodo seminar?

YANG YEO: I’ve done many other speeches prior this, but this was my first time representing Hakuhodo. I was pleased to learn that our session was rated very highly. Having Kunihiko Morinaga of Anrealage and Naoya Matsui from Sony helped to make the content more inspiring. Some agencies just sell themselves, which most audience find boring. Maybe that’s why we filled the 2,000-seat Debussy Hall to capacity.

The Hakuhodo seminar was called “Hakuhodo Mixed Tape Vol. 1: Extreme Stimulation.” What does Mixed Tape Vol. 1 mean?

YANG YEO: We called it Mixed Tape because in the old days, you selected your best songs and then put a tape together. So similarly, Kentaro and I are selecting different subjects, inviting different speakers, and picking different venues to mix it up to make it interesting and engaging. At Cannes, the subject was Extreme Stimulation. We wanted to use Japanese fashion and technology, through the use of AI and robotics, to showcase Hakuhodo’s deep understanding of tech and human insights in the modern world.

What are your goals going forward?

YANG YEO: To do more breakthrough and unconventional work. When we do great work, like what my fellow Kaiju Kentaro did with Hibiki Glass (https://www.hakuhodo-global.com/people/kentaro-kimura.html), people from Japan and all around the world want to know who did it. Eventually, they find out it was Hakuhodo, and we start getting new business leads. The more great case studies and successes we produce, the more we will become known internationally.

I think it’s in Hakuhodo’s DNA to be a bit more low profile, to be humble, which I appreciate very much too. Being great yet humble is a powerful quality, and am sure both clients and talent will want to work with us.

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